La La Land swept the awards at the 74th Golden Globes show, and everyone expected that. The musical is filled with great music and bright, colorful shots. It’s fun and creative, and the cinematography was great. However, another movie took center stage when it came to the category of Best Motion Picture - Drama, and that was Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight.
I recently saw Moonlight at a local independent theater in Miami, FL, where the film was shot. I went in without any expectations and was absolutely blown away by every aspect of the movie: music, acting, cinematography, the screenplay—everything. After Moonlight took home the Best Motion Picture in the drama category, I knew I had to put together a list of the all the reasons it deserved to win.
1. The story was honest and raw.
There was no sugarcoating anything in this film. The movie follows the life of an African American man from his time growing up in a rough neighborhood in Miami as a child, to teenager, to a grown adult. There is another layer of the story too: the man is gay, and is grappling with his sexuality in a culture where it is not easily accepted.
We get to see the way he gets treated at school, at home, and within his community. The movie touches on so many relatable emotions: love, hate, confusion, desperation, and forgiveness, and just gives a very real and intimate look at the lives of all the characters.
2. The cinematography was beautiful.
It was extremely well-shot, and there are times when the film even looks “dreamy.” The colors are beautiful, the lighting is on point, and the way it’s shot just gives such a personal and intimate view of the lives of the characters. The places that the director chose to shoot brought the film to life—whether it was the beach, a diner, or a run-down home, the backdrops to each scene were very carefully chosen and just, ugh, perfect.
3. The acting was f*cking incredible.
Not much else to say with this one. The film featured an ensemble cast made up of names like Mahershala Ali, Alex R. Hibbert, Janelle Monáe, Naomie Harris, and André Holland. The film was full of such strong acting, from moments of grief, desperation, intimate sexual moments, and even arguments. All of this was so beautifully and accurately portrayed, and nothing ever seemed grandiose or unrelatable.
4. It made you laugh AND cry.
The screenplay was so well-written, and I loved how, though it dealt with such heavy, raw topics, it also did have moments of lightheartedness. The movie didn’t try to be something it wasn’t. It didn’t try and sugar-coat things, but it also didn’t try and “overdo” anything and make it overly dramatic. I laughed all throughout the film, and also caught myself (unsuccessfully) choking back tears. This just made it more true to life, which is full of ups and downs.
5. It was shot in my hometown.
This was especially cool. For anyone who watched the film, they can appreciate the carefully chosen backdrops and locations that were used, and it’s a very accurate depiction of the city and its neighborhoods. It doesn’t focus on the stereotypical “glamorous” Miami that is depicted in many films, but instead gives an intimate view at a rougher neighborhood, which is often ignored in film, books, TV, and the news. It was amazing getting to see this other side of Miami on a big screen, and having lived here my whole life, this film was something special to me.
In fact, I was so in love with the scene from the diner that I had to look up where it is in Miami, and found that it’s Jimmy’s Eastside Diner! I’ll have to plan a visit soon.
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